Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Surviving a Long Flight With Children!

Every parent knows that young children are not generally able to sit still for long. So being restricted or confined in an aircraft for a few hours can be a recipe for disaster culminating in tantrums or crankiness, much to the embarrassment and frustration of their parents.  Add to that the discomfort from the change in cabin pressure and the potential for air sickness and you have a nightmare waiting to happen.  Sadly, there is no magic potion to prevent meltdowns in flight; there are, however, several things parents can do to help alleviate the severity of these issues while flying with children!

Pack & Play!
Packing a few favorite toys to keep children entertained can provide distraction and activity for several hours!  Before leaving home, have each child pack a favorite toy or two. For toddlers, you may want to bring a few toys.  By taking the packed items out one at a time you can not only maximize the novelty of each one; you will fill more time with play, and that's the goal!

For older kids, coloring books and crayons or colored pencils can go a long way! Many airlines even offer coloring sets, puzzles, and mini games for children. If the family is visiting friends or relatives, bring along a small photo album filled with pictures of the people they will see; you can even tell stories about their houses, pets, places you will be visiting, etc.

Plug & Play!
Long distance flights generally feature childrens' programs, movies, and games on the TV screen in the back of the seat. Packing headphones will save you a few bucks, and provide hours of entertainment!  Also, portable personal gaming systems (Didj, Nintendo DS, Gameboy, Sega Genesis, Playstation, etc. ) will keep many kids occupied for long stretches of time.

Managing Discomfort or Illness
Once you've provided as much distraction and activity as you can fit into one carry-on, its important to prepare for the other major hurdle you could face; sickness.  Air sickness affects some children, so plan to eat far in advance of the flight's departure time. If your child should become ill, simply use the air sickness bags provided, or pack a few of your own.

Some children complain of ear pain during take-off and landing. Providing pacifiers for babies to suck on and liquids for older kids to sip and swallow  can help relieve the ear pressure. For older children, chewing gum or sucking on hard candy can also help relieve the pressure.  If you don't happen to remember to bring these items, the stewards or stewardesses can often get them for you.   You can also purchase soft ear plugs from most pharmacies that can help both with equalizing the air pressure on each side of the ear drum and with reducing some of the noise of flying.

Your mileage with these suggestions may vary, but with a little advance planning, even the longest trip can generally be weathered with reasonably good results; think of it as a whole different way to childproof when travelling!  Happy travels!

- Destination Mom

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